We live in an age when people who didn’t hear something (until it’s online or on TV) are outraged enough by what they didn’t hear to lobby the advertisers on whom even satellite radio talk programming depends to one degree or another (especially when that programming also runs – in highly edited form – on a number of terrestrial stations).
Was the original material offensive? Sure. Dumb? Absolutely. Regrettable? Of course. Does it merit the heads of Opie & Anthony on silver platters – even for 30 days? Of course not.
But that doesn’t matter.
What matters is that the future of any audio entertainment that is financed by advertisers is a future where the content is child-safe and Disney-friendly – a future specifically monitored by agents with agendas to ensure that the inoffensive, the harmless, and the docile float to the top of what’s “acceptable.”
Can you be funny without being offensive? Of course. And. as O&A proved, you can be offensive without being funny.
But risk-taking is fundamental to comedy and offense is fundamental to satire. I am not defending the dumb and un-funny statements by the homeless guest on O&A, however I will defend the importance of taking risks in creating compelling entertainment. Some risks succeed, some do not. And all happen in context. Listeners tune in a show because of what it does – not because of what it fears doing.
Necessary or not, this suspension makes a show that was already less than it used to be even less still. When your next words can get you suspended thanks to people who didn’t hear them, it is impossible to be funny.
If you remove a show’s teeth, don’t expect it to chew.
Try this exercise: Tally all the radio shows that have been fined, fired, censured, or suspended in the past five years and compare that to the previous five years. There will be no comparison.
Have the shows gotten that much worse?
Or have we?
Archie Bunker is spinning in his grave.